St. Mary's grads offer advice to students: Get involved

Giovanna Ambroselli, 17, of Whitestone, screams in happiness

Giovanna Ambroselli, 17, of Whitestone, screams in happiness next to Catherine An, 18, of Lynbrook, at St. Mary's High School graduation at Long Island University in Brookville. (June 2, 2012) (Credit: Brittany Wait)

For Janelle James, high school was about more than just academics.

The 17-year-old recalls playing the role of the wicked stepmother in the school play “Cinderella” last October. Feeling the stage lights hit her face. The crowd cheering encore after the curtains dropped.

“High school taught me to be the best that I could be and I learned that I loved to be in front of people on stage,” said James, of Laurelton, Queens. “My advice to the next class is to get involved because you never know what you’ll be good at.”

It was no surprise that the lights would shine down on her again at graduation when she received a trophy for her outgoing personality, grades and school spirit over the past four years.

At St. Mary’s High School graduation on Saturday, James was among the 219 students who walked the stage at the Tilles Center at Long Island University in Brookville.

John Kiggins is president of the student council, a member of the National Honor Society and played soccer and lacrosse. Even all of that couldn’t prepare him for the moment he would walk up the stairs and onto the stage to receive his diploma. Instead, he credits the relationships he created in school to his ultimate success in school.

“I became a lot more outgoing in high school and less afraid to branch out to different groups of people,” said Kiggins, 18, of Manhasset, who plans to attend Iona College in New Rochelle. “My advice to the next class is to get involved as early as possible because it will help you in the long run.”

Angelica Villegas will be attending American University in Washington, D.C. in the fall, but not before reminiscing on graduation day about her continuing passion to help others in high school.

“I created a yard sale in August [2010], a personal project of mine to raise grant money to send a young girl to a private school,” said Villegas, 17, of Baldwin. “I’m still raising money to give her a better education. Having the opportunity to do a project like that makes me feel grateful for what I have.”

Grace Cavallo, president of St. Mary’s High School, handed out the more than 200 diplomas to students.

“They are unique and have used their talents to remain compassionate and giving in maintaining our cutting-edge school,” Cavallo said. “I’m so proud of them. What you see is what you get with these students and that’s just genuine.”

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